Monday, July 21, 2008

Is the Food In Your Pantry an Inheritance for Your Granchildren?

Food storage or home storage was never meant to be an inheritance for your grandchildren. Now that may come as a shock to some of you. You might be getting a glimmer of thought that I’m going to tell you that you should be planning on eating it – someday. Yes, after all of your scheming and planning of how and where to store it you need to plan to eat it. Now you know you are in trouble.

One of the key words or phrases that one always hears or uses upon entering any store that sells “food storage products” is, “what is the shelf life?” Herein is the magic formula. If you can buy a food that you can hide under the stairs and bed forever you have kept the commandment. Right? Right! Haven’t you heard, “You must have your food-storage? Therefore it only makes sense to want to know what the shelf life is of the magic elixir or wonder grain or deluxe freeze-dried phenomenon. Then you can store it!

Well I’m about to burst another bubble. I’m going to give you some definitions for shelf life. Even though you may have heard the fairy tales of wheat being found in the tombs – it has been suggested that it was taken there by pack rats only a few years before discovery, not several thousand years before. Sorry.

What exactly is shelf life? Even with the excellent methods of treating foods to extend its shelf life, food does not last forever. Proper care and rotation of the food items in your pantry is essential. To have to discard and then repurchase things due to spoilage is to forfeit your original savings and defeats the purpose of preparedness. No food can be stored without eventual deterioration even under the best of circumstance. (Yes, most of us will learn the misery of discovering a can that has burst its seams and leaked on our shelves. Just be grateful if it’s only one.) Proper storage conditions, though, will minimize deterioration, and ward off contamination and insect damage as well as changes in flavor and appearance. Each food has an ideal shelf life, beyond which nutrition , taste and texture slowly but surely decline. For example, canned vegetables have a shelf life of approximately 1-2 years from the time you purchase them at the store. That means that the manufacturer guarantees that your can of green beans will have the same quality, texture and nutrition two years after you buy it that it had the day it came off the conveyor belt at the cannery. The shelf life estimates published by manufacturers, the government and other sources are extremely conservative since they can’t account for the many different conditions under which consumers will store the food. Their figures are based on the time beyond which nutrition cannot be guaranteed. That doesn’t mean that if you eat your can of green beans two years and a day after you buy it that you will die of botulism poisoning or that the beans will have deteriorated beyond recognition. It just means they won’t guarantee that you’ll get 100% of the food value and quality the beans had the day they were canned. You still may, but they won’t guarantee it.

No foods shelf life is indefinite, no matter how it is packaged. The point is not to try to keep food forever. The shelf life of a food does not mean how long you can keep the food on a shelf without having to actually eat it. A better meaning for shelf life in a preparedness context is that you have learned to store your food properly so that it will give you life after it has been on your shelf!

So today I will be really bold and suggest that you replace some of the “storage mindset” with rotate and use or replace and enjoy.
(Check out Preparedness Principles for more details about keeping foods in your pantry.)

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